Richard Sharpe, associate director at Dalbergia Group, describes a typical day working with Wellesley Finance…
When he is on a Wellesley-backed property development, Richard Sharpe, associate director at Dalbergia Group, is Wellesley Finance’s eyes and ears on the ground. As an independent monitoring surveyor, Sharpe understands the importance of on-the-ground due diligence.
So, it is no surprise that just weeks after the Covid lockdown restrictions were eased, it was business as usual for both Wellesley and Dalbergia Group. This means monthly visits to construction sites and property developments, as well as frequently-updated reports, conversations with lawyers, costing assessments, and – now – enhanced health and safety checks.
“As a business, we weren’t visiting sites in April or May,” he says. “So that was quite a difficult adjustment for us. Obviously, funders expect us to be on site so we did a lot more on the borrower side, making sure they were sending videos and looking at everything so we could value the works. Obviously, that wasn’t an ideal situation for us or the lenders as we were releasing money, and nobody could be sure about the progress.
“But from the middle of May we started to visit sites again, to give the lenders comfort that we are assessing and certifying what’s happened on site.”
As soon as construction sites were re-opened in May, Dalbergia re-commenced site visits whilst implementing new Covid safety measures.
“For the first couple of months of lockdown, there remained several key site team members on furlough – such as architects and engineers – and this slowed down the process of design development and sign off,” Sharpe says.
“But sites appear to be back up to speed now. It’s back to where we were before Covid. “We’ve put a whole new risk assessment in place. We ask questions to ensure there have been no recent cases on site and to confirm safe distancing measures are in place.
“That’s been the biggest change for us, because before every site visit you have to update the Covid risk assessment to align with current lockdown measures and procedures. It’s just a matter of adapting to it – it’s a new process.”
Sharpe currently manages two sites for Wellesley and describes the property-backed lender as being “very hands on”.
“They like to get involved, which is quite a useful approach from our point of view because you get instant feedback,” he adds. “Everyone that we work with in the industry is committed to improving processes on site, making sure that everyone’s safe and that ultimately they can carry on working. Everyone’s putting the steps in place to make sure that we maintain a good balance of safety and progress.”
Post-Covid, Sharpe expects to see a bigger emphasis on health and safety on construction sites, and this will likely slow down certain processes, at least initially. “We will also need to update the risk assessment as the schemes progress, because as the building changes, new risks develop,” says Sharpe.
This new normal will keep monitoring surveyors such as Sharpe busier than ever before, while ensuring safe working conditions and protecting investors and borrowers alike.